Hunting for somewhere fresh to take the brood this summer? Time Out Kids asked Louise Emma Clarke to review four of the newest play areas in the city with her kids…
Umm Suqeim Road
Located in a service road on Umm Suqeim Road, Kids HQ is housed in a large warehouse-style building on two floors. After parking at the front (no shade, but plenty of spaces), we made our way to the first floor and discovered a big - and it has to be said, rather fantastic - play area spread over 9000 sq foot. For a weekend, it was surprisingly quiet – and as the kids ran off happily to discover what was in store, I stayed hot on the toes of the 16-month old, his three year old brother ran into the jungle gym, and my husband bee-lined for the café for much-needed caffeine.
The jungle gym is the main attraction, set over three floors with trampolines, tunnels, wobbly bridges, slides, and lots more. I loved the fact that a lot of it was visible from the café underneath, so you can watch older children play in comfort. And if members of your family are still small enough for constant supervision, you will enjoy it too – we spent half an hour howling with laughter together in the deepest ball pit I have sunk into!
For younger guests, there’s a small baby area with a tent, climbing equipment, and interactive toys. There are also playhouses filled with toys for them to explore.
If you haven’t been to Kids HQ yet, go immediately! It’s a great addition to the city’s soft play scene.
Details: Dhs45 for first hour, Dhs10 for each additional hour (free for babies 8 months and below). Open Sun-Wed 8.30am-7pm, Thurs and Sat 8.30am-8pm, Fri 10am-8pm. Kids HQ, Umm Suqeim Road, Barsha 2 www.kidshq.ae (04 379 4233).
Pixies and Ponies
Al Wasl Vita Mall
Our visit to Pixies and Ponies started with a hiccup. With no opening time listed online, I rang the night before and was told they opened at 9am. When we arrived, however, we were told that they don’t ‘officially’ open until 10am (staff were inside cleaning) – so we headed off to grab a coffee, with both boys objecting loudly.
All was forgiven when we arrived an hour later and discovered we had the play area to ourselves. The boys ran into the smaller toddler area to explore, finding ladders to climb, slides to ride, a mini trampoline, and an ingenious area filled with balloons dancing in the breeze of a fan.
A larger ‘forest’ jungle gym is positioned alongside. The giant slides, ball pit, various bridges, obstacles and tunnels kept our three-year-old very happy as he explored.
The place is quite small and filled up quickly, so we decided to head home a little early. The only other downside was the arcade-style machines dotted throughout - both my boys were attracted to the flashing lights and tinny music like flies, when I’d much rather they were letting off steam in the play area.
If you live locally, Pixies and Ponies offers a welcome change of scenery. With a café serving pretty good coffee and underground parking, it’s definitely worth a visit.
Details: Dhs55 for first hour, Dhs25 for each additional hour (free for babies under one). Sun-Thu 10am-9pm, Fri-Sat 10am-11pm. Al Wasl Vita Mall, Al Wasl Road (in front of City Walk) www.pixiesandponies.com (04 385 4111).
J3 Mall, Al Wasl Road
The newest Cheeky Monkeys venue to open is at J3 Mall on Al Wasl Road. On arriving, we parked in the underground car park and headed straight upstairs to the second floor. After signing them in and donning wristbands at the colourful reception, we made our way into the large, open plan play area.
In typical Cheeky Monkeys style, it’s extremely well thought out. Tables for parents are located between a mini grocery store, play house, and craft area on one side – and on the other, a giant jungle gym and soft play zone, complete with baby and toddler zone.
This area for little ones is one of the best I’ve seen in Dubai. My 16-month-old loved every second of jumping on a squidgy water-effect trampoline, sliding down a neon-lit slide, toddling on a bouncy castle, and playing with numerous activity boards lining the walls.
Meanwhile, his brother was crawling through tunnels, feeding balls into a machine that shot them high into the air, climbing through hatches, and laughing as he whooshed down slides.
With so much on offer, it’s unsurprising that this play area gets busy, especially as it hosts frequent parties. I suggest arriving early in the morning to grab a table and enjoy relative peace and quiet until it starts to fill up. We will be heading back soon!
Details: Dhs50 for first hour, Dhs15 for each additional hour (free for babies under 10 months). Open daily 9am-9pm. Cheeky Monkeys, J3 Mall, Al Wasl Road. www.cheekymonkeys.ae (04 388 1135).
Dubai Marina Mall
Being Dubai Marina residents, I was excited to hear that a new play area had opened up in Dubai Marina Mall, so I took along my three-year-old to explore.
NJoi is essentially four entertainment options under one roof; an adventure playground, glow-in-the-dark golf course, trampoline area, and indoor skate ramp. I assumed there would be one entrance fee with the freedom to swap between the activities, but sadly this isn’t the case, with each priced separately. This gives the potential for a very expensive afternoon, so make sure you set a budget before you arrive.
I paid for my three-year-old to head into the Adventure Play Area, which is essentially a large jungle gym with several slides. Not being able to see any of the area from outside (and nowhere to sit either), I decided to go up with him – and I was pleased I did, as I had to push him up a few of the ledges as he was too short.
Although we’d paid for an hour, he was a bit overwhelmed by the groups of unsupervised bigger children and we left after 30 minutes – but noticing us leaving, the staff very kindly offered us a complimentary bounce on the trampolines. I really appreciated this small gesture and we enjoyed a lovely few minutes together bouncing as high as we could!
Before we left, I had a quick peak at the glow-in-the-dark golf and skate ramp – both looked like great fun and were much quieter than the adventure playground. I made a mental note to head back when my son is a little older and try them out.
Details: Adventure Play Area Dhs45 per hour (per child, at least 90cm tall), Glow in the Dark Golf Dhs50 (per person, per round), Trampoline Sessions Dhs20 (per 5 minute block), Indoor Skate Ramp (Dhs35 per child). Weekdays 10am-10pm, weekends 10am-12pm (Thurs-Fri). NJoi, Dubai Marina Mall. www.njoi.ae (04 448 8488)